This episode features an incredible guest. Joining me is Kai, who's not only living in a house truck, but has a wealth of knowledge about the ins and outs of this unique lifestyle. We'll explore Kai's journey, from finding and customizing a commercial truck to navigating the practical challenges of living in her unique tiny home. Kai will share their experiences with insulation, maintenance, and the daily joys and hardships of the tiny life. Get ready to be inspired and informed by Kai's fascinating insights into the world of house trucks and the tiny house movement.

In This Episode:

  • DIY Living ๐Ÿ› ๏ธ: Living sustainably in a self-built, off-grid house truck
  • Tiny House Insulation ๐Ÿ : Tales of insulating a homemade house truck
  • Off-Grid Heating ๐Ÿ”ฅ: Using diesel and wood for sustainable heat
  • Legalities of Mobile Living ๐Ÿšš: Navigating RV insurance and vehicle classification
  • DIY Business ๐Ÿ’ผ: Earning income through social media and sponsorships
  • Life in Rural Canada ๐ŸŒฒ: Living off-grid and the challenges it brings
  • Tiny House Mobility ๐Ÿš›: The advantages and challenges of moving a tiny house
  • Retro Living Inspiration ๐Ÿ“š: Drawing inspiration from vintage house truck designs

Links and Resources:

Guest Bio:

Kai

Kai

Kai lives in a self built housetruck in the mountains of British Columbia, with her partner Ben. She has a passion for small, simple living, and has become very successful on social media chronicling her life and various build projects.

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More Photos:

Kai and Ben looking out the door of their house truck.

 

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Kai 0:00

So I'm really into books clearly, as I already told you before, there's another book that I was really inspired by called some turtles have nice shells. It's another old photo book that has pictures of house trucks that were built back in the 60s and 70s. So a lot of my design ideas were actually just taken from that book because there's a lot of designing constructions that you have when you're building on a vehicle.

Ethan Waldman 0:21

Welcome to the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast The show where you learn how to plan, build and live the tiny lifestyle. I'm your host, Ethan Waldman, and today's episode features an incredible guest. Joining me is Kai, who's not only living in a homemade house truck, but has a wealth of knowledge about the ins and outs of this unique lifestyle. We'll explore Kai's journey from finding and customizing a commercial truck to navigating the practical challenges of living in her unique tiny home. Kai will share her experiences with installation, maintenance and the daily joys and hardships of the tiny life. Get ready to be inspired and informed by Kai's fascinating insights into the world of house trucks and the tiny house movement.

And instead of our usual sponsored ad read, I just wanted to call on and say Happy New Year. Thank you so much for being a listener of the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast. Whether you started listening recently or you've been with us for five years, I hope the show brings you lots of value and has helped to inspire you and helped to move you along on your tiny house journey. Things have been quiet for me, I don't think I've sent a newsletter. Even in a couple of months, I've been actually really busy renovating a not so tiny home that my wife and I bought at the beginning of October. And I haven't done any real construction since I built my tiny house in 2012. And let me tell you renovation is really difficult. I feel like I have barely enough time for anything. We're certainly saving a lot of money by having me do the work myself. But wow, it's a lot different than building a new house.

I'd love to tell you more about it. So stay tuned to the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast and make sure you are signed up to our newsletter. You can do that at thetinyhouse.net/newsletter So you can get all the updates whenever I send them. Alright, let's get on with the show.

All right, I am here with Kai. Kai lives in a self built house truck in the mountains of British Columbia with her partner Ben. She has a passion for small, simple living and has become very successful on social media chronicling her life and various built projects. Hi, welcome to the show.

Kai 2:41

Hi, thanks for having me.

Ethan Waldman 2:42

Yeah, you're very welcome.

So tell us tell us the name of your house. And then just tell us about it. Like what kind of the specs of your tiny home?

Kai 2:55

Yeah, for sure. So I live in a house truck. It is approximately eight feet wide by about 32 feet long. And I built it myself up in BC. Other than that, I'm really passionate about House trucks and tiny houses and small simple living and stuff like that, which I'm sure that your viewers are all very familiar with. Yeah. I've been on Instagram for I think about six years now. And I've been on TikTok for the last two years, roughly since the pandemic. And yeah, that's all I can think of.

Ethan Waldman 3:28

Nice so your your truck is called the ugly duckling right?

Kai 3:32

Yes. Oh, yeah. That's right. That was the question. Yeah. It's called the ugly duckling, which is a play on the old fairy tale about the ugly duckling that grows up to be a swan, which I've always quite enjoyed.

Ethan Waldman 3:42

It's great. Yeah, it's it's a perfect name. Because it's a very like, it's a very whimsical design. Like it's got the cedar shingles and that kind of Dragon tooth pattern and a round window. Tell me about the design? Did you did you kind of sketch it out before you started building? Or did you just kind of get started and see where it took you?

Kai 4:03

Yeah, so I definitely I sketched it out for years before I ever started building it. I have sketchbooks that are just full of like drawings of different design ideas and stuff like that. But I can say that I got most of my design ideas actually from a photo book called Builders of the Pacific Coast, which is published by a shelter publications out of California, the author of that book, Lloyd Kahn is a personal hero of mine. And he went on a road trip Around BC and he took photos and did interviews of kind of old school builders who have been living off grid in the woods in coastal British Columbia. And so that book was really pivotal for me because I've always been really into architecture and I've never been able to put a finger on the architecture of the place that I'm from. But I would call it kind of like BC coastal folk architecture in a way where people use similar materials because there's only certain materials that are available to you.

So there's lots of hands What's your sheiks, roof, shingles, driftwood, organic shapes, kind of found material objects, beach combed items and stuff like that. And most of the people who built these houses, built them on a shoestring budget, back in the 70s, with whatever they could find. And so I was really inspired by that book. And so when it came to designing my own house truck, I kind of wanted to follow in their footsteps, and build a house truck that looks similar to a lot of those cabins and things that I'd seen in that book.

Ethan Waldman 5:26

So, one

interesting thing about about your truck is that it's not like you took an existing vehicle, like a school bus, for example, and just used the structure the walls, the ceiling of the school bus to to as the walls and ceiling of your house. It's correct me if I'm wrong, it looks like the truck was essentially a flatbed or just like kind of a cab with a big kind of space that you could build whatever you wanted on top of it is that, am I correct?

Kai 5:59

Yeah, that's correct the truck is just a cab chassis. So that's just the cab of the truck, and then the frame rails, and then the rear axle, there wasn't even a flat deck on it. So I actually ended up designing and getting a welder to fabricate a custom flat deck for it. And to extend the back of the truck to make it a little bit longer. And then built from there. And that was really nice, because it gave me a completely blank slate to build whatever I wanted. Interesting within obviously, like highway requirements for height and width, and stuff like that, and like, which I think is great. But it also presents like a lot of challenges, because you don't have this existing structure to build off of Yeah, because with a school bus, you know, you can just insulate it, and then put a couch in there and start start living with the house truck, it was quite a long process to even get to the point of having just a roof over my head.

Ethan Waldman 6:43

Right, just just to get it to the point where you could start building a simple structure on top of it. Yeah, exactly. So after the years of sketching and all the different designs, you know, what are some of the features of this design? And why did you choose it?

Kai 7:00

Right? Well, I was also so I'm really into books, clearly, as I already told you before. But there's another book that I was really inspired by called Some Turtles Have Nice Shells and it's another old photobook that has pictures of house trucks that were built back in the 60s and 70s, through the 80s, and so on, so forth. So a lot of my design ideas were actually just taken from that book, because there's a lot of like designing constructions that you have when you're building on a vehicle, especially things like wheel wheel wells, and where to place things and stuff like that. So I had to take into consideration of where the wheel wells are. So I had to place cabinets over those. Yep, where the entrances were and stuff like that. So I didn't try to do anything too crazy. And I kind of just looked at things that other people had done before me and took all the different ideas that I liked out of that book. And then combine them in my own.

Ethan Waldman 7:52

Nice, nice, and your chassis Flatbed or sorry, cabin chassis. That's what it's called. What what life did it live before you build a house on it?

Kai 8:04

Yeah, so the guy that I bought it from so it used to be a linen delivery truck. Okay. And I learned an interesting thing when I was truck shopping. So it took me about a year to find the truck that I ended up with, okay, is that old commercial trucks aren't really worth very much after they've kind of lived out their useful life. So my truck is a 1992. So it's already 30 years old.

And big industrial trucks like that, like they are broken up into kind of three components. There's the truck body itself, there's the blocks, there's in the back of it, and then there's the lift gate. So out of the three of those things, they're, they're all priced differently. So normally lift gates will go from like, five grand, 10 grand kind of depending how big they are, and how much weight they can lift. And then the box itself, whether that's insulated, whether it's a reefer truck, like a refrigerated truck, or anything along those lines, and so then the box is like five to 7000. And then the truck itself isn't really worth that much after they've removed the box and the lift gate so I could get the truck for four grand, you know, I spent less on a huge commercial truck than I would have spent on a trailer to build a tiny house or on a school bus, or something along those lines. So that that allowed me to save a lot of money, which was great.

And yeah, it's I think that having a truck is a great platform for building a tiny house on the back of kind of like I've done because I know that tiny house trailers can be quite expensive.

Ethan Waldman 9:24

Yes, they absolutely can. And then and then you still need something to pull them with.

Kai 9:28

Yeah, and then you still need a truck to tow with.

Ethan Waldman 9:32

Yeah, yeah. So how often do you move the ugly duckling and have you had any, you know, trouble keeping it keeping it running mechanical issues?

Kai 9:44

Yeah, for sure. Yeah, so I've lived, my partner and I have lived, in the truck and a couple of different locations. There was the original build site and then it moved to a farm kind of an area that we live in now. And then we moved to another farm, and we've also used it to evacuate from forest fires a couple of times, which is, which is pretty good. So I tried to keep the truck in pretty good condition, but obviously because it does sit for a couple of years in between uses. So there's a lot of things that get rusty they need maintenance. They need greasing and stuff along those lines. But every summer I tried to do like a set of routine maintenance to make sure that it's ready to go in case we do get a forest fire in the area.

Ethan Waldman 10:27

Did you have any experience with being a mechanic before before you bought the truck?

Kai 10:33

No, definitely not. Well, especially not heavy diesel mechanics is a totally Yeah, other whole other ballpark? I've definitely worked on my own vehicles before like, just in simple things like oil changes and stuff like that. But yeah, the scope and scale of the house truck. I've never done anything like that before.

Ethan Waldman 10:50

Yeah no, it's, it's definitely a big, I mean, I'm gonna say it's a big house. I'm kind of laughing when I say it. But yeah, it's you know, it's it's a substantial size cabin. And then you've got this truck. That's also like, quite robust. And you have to keep that thing going. I see that a lot in the skoolie. world as well as that, like, you essentially become a heavy diesel mechanic. If you want to live in a school bus. Yes, for any amount of time. Yes, definitely.

Kai 11:17

I think that you have to be ready to get your hands dirty. If you're going to be living in a school bus or living in a vehicle of that size, and in a way that you don't necessarily have to if you have just a tiny house on a trailer. Yeah, yeah, because your vehicle is detachable. But then at the same time, like to get access to a pickup truck that's big enough to tow a 26 foot long, tiny house like that can be quite intimidating as well for people.

Ethan Waldman 11:41

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So it sounds like you're a real advocate for for a house truck over, you know, your typical tiny house on a trailer. Are there any other factors that that led you to do the house truck versus the tiny house on wheels?

Kai 11:58

Yeah, I mean, I'm not sure what it's like in the States, I'm assuming that you're in the States, but I live in BC, British Columbia, in Canada. And so like the legal, the legal progress made towards legalizing tiny homes is really, really slow up here. And it used to be that you could buy a trailer, and then build a tiny house on it and class it as an RV, and you could get RV insurance, but they don't actually even allow that anymore.

Ethan Waldman 12:23

Oh, okay.

Kai 12:24

So most, I don't even know how they how you class a tiny house these days, or if you can get insurance for it or anything along those lines. But if you build a house on a vehicle, like if you build a school bus and convert it to being an RV, there is an inspection process that you can go through where you take it to get inspected. And I think you need five out of seven things like utilities or something to be installed in order for them to be able to reclass it from a commercial vehicle to an RV. And then once it's classed as an RV, you can get just regular RV insurance and legally they just treat it like an RV.

Ethan Waldman 12:59

Oh, nice. So yours is yours classed as an RV now?

Kai 13:02

No, it's still classed as a commercial vehicle.

Ethan Waldman 13:04

Okay,

Kai 13:05

there's a few more systems that I need to install first before I take it to get inspected.

Ethan Waldman 13:09

Okay, and so are by Are you planning to take it?

Yeah. Yeah, that's expected you're gonna do it.

Kai 13:14

That's the goal eventually, is that I want to get it inspected as an RV so I can get RV plates. Yep. And then I would just be able to take it wherever I want it. In theory. Yeah.

Ethan Waldman 13:23

So like as it is now, is there some risk that you wouldn't be allowed to live in it or something because it's not classed as an RV?

Yeah, because currently it's classed as a commercial vehicle. And when I take it on the road, I get it. I get temporary insurance for it as a commercial vehicle with a load, like a loaded commercial truck. And then you can stipulate how much the load is worth on the back of the truck that you're moving. So it's i So thereinlies the problem.

Kai 13:52

I can. Yeah, our insurance system is. It's just it's run by the state. And it's kind of strange. Yeah.

Ethan Waldman 14:00

All right. Well, at least there's an easy path to doing it. It sounds like you know, that's that's one positive thing that there is actually a path to getting it. Yeah, exactly. Classes and RV.

Kai 14:12

Yeah, exactly. Whereas I feel like if you, you know, if you had a tiny house and you were trying to get classes and RV right now, I just don't think it's even possible. I honestly don't know, like, I know, in the states in some places, you can have a tiny house as legally as long as you take the axles off of it and then attach it permanently to the foundation or something along those lines. I think I remember hearing about that.But it's just completely different in Canada.

Ethan Waldman 14:38

Yeah, yeah. So you all so I'm curious to learn about kind of your lifestyle. I know you've mentioned that you've lived in a couple different places but but tell us about like where you're currently parked. You know what, what amenities are there? Like? Are there other people around? Are you just like you've driven the truck out into the woods and there You are?

Kai 15:01

Sure well, I'm not going to say I generally don't say exactly where I live just for security reasons. Sure. But I will say that I live in a very rural area that is about 35 kilometers away from the nearest town. Wow. So it's kind of like a remote, rural agricultural area. So there are lots of large farms around me. So there are people in the vicinity. Okay. I think that people who have maybe watched my videos have this assumption that I just drove into the mountains and just parked it somewhere. Which isn't, which isn't isn't the case. Like I I am way, way up in the mountains and stuff like that, but I'm parked on somebody's private land. And I do pay that person in order to be able to park there every month.

Ethan Waldman 15:45

Okay, okay. Nice. And then in terms of like hookups, water, electricity, what what do you have there?

Kai 15:54

so I've got there's well water on the property. So I got water from the well, that's on the property already. And then I do get power from the landowners barn. So he has an electrical line that comes out from the barn. And then I can plug into that, but I do I also have a battery bank on the house trucks. So okay, I have like kind of your standard charger inverter that charges a 12 volt electrical battery bank, and then that charges all of the 12 volt lighting inside the house. But then also, if there's a power outage, or if I need to unplug and drive away, the system automatically switches over to the batteries. And then in which case that we can self power them. And we can charge the batteries through anything, whether it's the landline, like the the short power that I've got right now, or solar panels or a generator or kind of anything along those lines.

Ethan Waldman 16:40

Very cool. Is that like a home built system? Or is that like a commercially available? Battery System?

Kai 16:45

No, it's a home built system. Cool. My partner, he is an electrician, and he got everything set up, which is great. I really appreciate it.

Ethan Waldman 16:55

Good person to know. So what about heat? I see I see wood, wood stove content on the Instagram. So is that your primary source of heat?

Kai 17:07

Yeah, yeah, we've got a little wood stove. It's the door for kilowatt wood stove from tiny wood stoves. I purchased it and then I had it shipped to a vitreous enamelling factory, which was somewhere in the American Midwest. I can't remember where it was exactly, but, one of the only places that still does vitreous enameling in America, okay. And then they enameled it this like beautiful, shiny green, kind of British racing green color, and then shipped it back up to me in Canada. And the woodstove is great, I love that thing. The only limitation is that it can only take eight to 10 inch pieces of wood. But I think it's a good compromise between some of the smaller wood stoves like the grizzly or something where you can only put six inch pieces of wood in, and then a larger one, which will take up more space than then a tiny house has to give. Yeah, it's great. No complaints,

Ethan Waldman 18:01

So vitreous enamelling. Is that just an aesthetic thing that you chose to do? Or is there like, does that enhance the woodstove in some way?

Kai 18:10

Yeah, well, it's, that's just, it's an alternative coating to stove black or painting or something along those lines. So it's just a very, very hardwearing shiny surface that cannot check. And you can wipe clean and it'll stay on there like forever, basically, where it still flies, you have to reapply every couple of years in order to season it. And then paint has the potential to chip. Right. Okay. And then also, it's just a much more old fashioned kind of look where if you see kind of like Swedish wood stoves from around 1900 A lot of them were enameled. So they were had this like, shiny, beautiful look to them. But it's kind of hard to find stoves. Yeah, look like that these days.

Ethan Waldman 18:53

Yep, yeah. And then if you do find one that's that old, it's probably not necessarily the most efficient stove that you can that you can burn. Probably not super safe.

Kai 19:03

Nope, nope.

Ethan Waldman 19:07

So you've got the house truck, and it looks like you kind of plant that somewhere for like, a couple of years. You plant that you plant your house truck. And do you also have like a van that you've built out?

Kai 19:29

Yes, yes, I do for travel. Yeah. So I have that's another common question that I get when people see the house truck and they think oh, do you take that to go get groceries? And no, I've got like a smaller little minivan that I've also converted it's got a bed in the back and a little diesel heater and a really basic water and electrical system. Yep. And I use that to go on quick road trips, visit family or if I get called away to go do a job or something like that. I can live in that while I'm doing the job. If that's like out of my town.

Ethan Waldman 19:59

So tell me I'm very curious about diesel heaters I've been kind of Oh, they've always perks my perked my ears up when I hear about people using them because I think it's a very interesting or just a readily available fuel. And an easy way to add heat to a small space. I'm guessing the van though runs on on gasoline, right?

Kai 20:21

Yes. So it has. So most diesel heaters depending on what brand you get, because there's like the big German ones like Webasto, and stuff like that. And then there's the less expensive ones that are made in China. A lot of them come shipped with a tank like a separate diesel tank, so you can choose to install that diesel tank separately. Or if you have a diesel engine powered vehicle already, you can just tap the fuel tank that your vehicle already has. Yep. And it can just it'll just sit it'll slip diesel out of your regular fuel tank. But if you don't have that, then you need installed somewhere in your van.

Ethan Waldman 20:54

Okay, so yeah, and so that's what you've done you you basically have a small diesel tank auxiliary in your van.

Kai 21:01

Yeah, exactly. And then you just tuck that up whenever you need it. And the the heater uses nothing. It's super efficient, which is great.

Ethan Waldman 21:07

That's awesome. Yeah, I've considered it as an alternative. Like, in my tiny house. I'm kind of tied to propane, which I don't love. I mean, I guess diesel is also you know, a fossil fuel as well. But propane is comes in tanks that are heavy and difficult to transport. And, you know, so I've always liked having multiple sources of heat. And, you know, a diesel heater has always appealed to me because like, you can run to the you know, I guess where I am there's a gas station probably a mile away that has diesel so you could fill up a tank of diesel and just keep your tiny house warm through a power outage or through whatever.

Kai 21:48

Yeah, definitely. I like having multiple forms of heat as well. I think that just kind of like diversifies things so that if one thing isn't available for whatever reason, you can go out and just use the other which is great. The other nice thing is that because the diesel heater like the way it works is there's the tank, a little fuel pump that pumps diesel into an ignition chamber, the ignition chamber sucks fresh air in from outside, through the ignition chamber mixes with the diesel spark compression explosion heat it exhausts outside, and then there's a heat exchanger inside the diesel heater. So the explosion in the heat is on one side of the heat exchanger and then the warm air is being blown across these fins on the other side. So none of that exhaust gas and anesthetics ignition gas goes inside of your inside of your home, basically whereas a lot of propane heaters they just burn propane inside your home. So all of the fumes from that are still inside. Whereas most diesel heaters it's a heat exchanger so you're just having hot air blown in and all of that ignition gas and nastiness just gets exhausted outside. So there are a lot safer as well.

Ethan Waldman 22:52

The so the heater itself is mounted outside of the truck then the like that that appliance part of it

Kai 22:58

I mean it can be but in my van I haven't mounted so I just because I didn't have anywhere to put it outside, but it has its own. Like it has a fresh air intake which goes outside the vehicle, and it has an exhaust which also goes outside the vehicle. And then inside it sucks cold air through one side and then blows hot air out the other side.

Ethan Waldman 23:20

Very cool. Yeah, very cool. Would you ever consider installing one in the truckling?

Kai 23:24

Yeah, definitely thought about it for sure. I've definitely thought about it also because the house truck is a diesel engine. So I already have like a huge amount of diesel in the tanks just sitting there. So it'd be nice. It would be nice to be able to just run a heater off of that.

Ethan Waldman 23:43

Yeah, certainly. Certainly. How many gallons or like how many liters just the just the truck called?

Kai 23:50

Oh boy a lot and a lot. It actually has two diesel tanks. So I'm not sure what the volume of them combined is, but I think maybe like at least 100 200 gallons, something like that. It's huge.

Ethan Waldman 24:00

Oh, wow. So so when you go to fill it up, it's like Ouch. Oh, yeah, major expense.

Kai 24:07

I think it's $300 or $400? I think to fill up the tanks completely. I've never I think I filled them up completely maybe once and yeah, it was ouch for sure. Ouch. Yeah.

Ethan Waldman 24:19

Yeah. So like, what kind of chores do you have at the house? Like what's your day to day lifestyle like,

Kai 24:26

Right, so lots of chopping firewood, as I make a few videos about so lots of chopping, processing wood cutting kindling, stuff like that. Getting up to start the fire first thing in the morning to warm the house up. In the summertime, I have a little veggie garden in the area so I have to make sure to irrigate that and weed it and so on so forth and maintain it and stuff. And then also on the property I'm on right now I've been given permission to build kind of a little lean to shed in at one area so I've got my little woodworking shop in there as well. So most of the time, I'll be I'll go up there, and I'll be working on various different woodworking projects, either for the house trick itself very nice, because it's not quite finished yet. So I'm still working on like some cabinet stuff or I'll do projects for other people.

Ethan Waldman 25:13

Nice. Yeah. So do you. Do you now do you carpentry is like professionally?

Kai 25:18

I wouldn't say professionally, but I definitely have done paid projects in the past.

Ethan Waldman 25:23

That's professional.

Kai 25:24

Sure. I'm working on it. But yeah, definitely. Yeah.

Ethan Waldman 25:28

If you get if you get paid to do something, then then it's professional, at least in my mind.

Kai 25:33

That's true.

Ethan Waldman 25:41

I was gonna ask, you know, you've got you know, a big following on social media. Is Instagram kind of your your biggest platform?

Kai 25:48

No, I think that TikTok is the biggest platform, although the Instagram does pretty well, as well..

Ethan Waldman 25:55

I have to admit that I feel too old for TikTok, or like, I don't use TikTok. My wife does a lot of TikToking. But too is that are you are you able to like support yourself from from social media? Or do you do other work?

Kai 26:08

No, I do other work outside. So this is actually really interesting. And this is a thing that a lot of people don't know is that Canadians actually can't get paid from TikTok directly. So like, okay, in the States, you get paid per view. And that it kind of varies depending on what niche you're in. But there's a lot of people on Tik Tok that make their entire living off of it. But unfortunately, Canada is one of the few countries that don't have a, like a creativity program for their creators. So the only way I get paid through TikTok is when I have sponsorships that are directly from companies that hire me to review their products and then make a video and post it on TikTok. So I get a little bit of money from that, which is great, I do maybe one sponsorship a month something along those lines. But I don't actually money to make any money directly from TikTok

Ethan Waldman 26:53

Bummer.

Kai 26:54

And then, and then Instagram is kind of the same, like you don't really get paid per views on Instagram, either. One of the only ways for a Canadian to just make money off of social media is to do YouTube, which I've just started a YouTube channel as well. And I'm hoping to do more long format videos over there in the future.

Ethan Waldman 27:13

Awesome. All right. Well, your your your content is really fun does I mean, I've looked at the Instagram stuff, and just the videos are short and just like informative, and you have a great sense of humor and answer a lot of good questions.

Kai 27:26

Great. Thank you.

Ethan Waldman 27:31

So, you know, when we were setting up the interview, you kind of mentioned like, Hey, I don't have internet access where I am. So where do you go when you need to do something like this?

Kai 27:41

So I've only ever done? Actually, no, I've done to other podcasts interviews before. And normally I have to go into town. Okay, because I do have internet at home, I actually just got Starlink, which is great. Starlink, nice, much faster than the previous internet service I had. But it still cuts out. It still cuts out about every five minutes or so. I don't know, I think the satellites just fly by hidden behind a tree or something. But so it makes it really difficult to do kind of like phone calls or video chats or something like that. So I'll generally have to like jump Yeah, jump in my van and bring my laptop and the drive all the way into town and find, okay, Wi Fi or cell service or something like that in order to do like

long interviews and stuff like that. Got it. Got it. And so, how many

Ethan Waldman 28:32

years have you been in the truckling? Sorry, I should know this?

Kai 28:36

I think it's been five years now.

Ethan Waldman 28:39

Nice. That's like long enough that whatever honeymoon period, you might have had has has long worn off and you're just kind of doing it day to day. Is there anything that you would do differently if you if you ever built another one? And are you planning to kind of do another house truck are you is the truckling like your your ride or die?

Kai 28:58

Well, I mean, I'd love to build more house trucks. I think it's a lot of fun. Now I've got some new ideas that I want to try out in future builds. Yep. Yep. I don't think I would build another one for myself, maybe. But I'd love to build them for other people. And we actually have a project coming up where my partner and I bought a 1965 old dodge school bus. And our plan is to renovate it and get it running. And then hopefully listed for sale in the next year or so. Very cool, which is going to be really exciting. The bus actually was already converted, I think someone converted it maybe back in the 70s or something like that. Because the whole interior is like very vintage and beautiful. But the engine doesn't run and the transmission doesn't run and steering doesn't work and the brakes don't work. Nothing works. So it's going to be a major a major project.

Ethan Waldman 29:49

That sounds like a project. I suppose you could just tow it to places.

Kai 29:56

That's true. That's one of my friends suggested that he was like, why don't you just put put a trailer hitch on the front and then you can move it around like it's a tiny house. There's like, Well, I mean, that's that's an idea for sure.

Ethan Waldman 30:07

I'm guessing the truckling could probably tow it.

Kai 30:11

Oh, yeah, definitely. Yeah. Yeah. That that would be something. I had the idea at one point in time where I was like, I wonder if I got a trailer, I could build an art studio, and I could hit it to the back of the house truck. And then I could just go down the highway, like a 70 foot long road train with all of my stuff, all my stuff to it, but then I thought, yeah, maybe not.

Ethan Waldman 30:35

So that sounds amazing. I hope I'm sure that if you do it, you will, you will post it on Instagram or Tiktok. So you are actually featured you kind of buried the lead when you're talking about Lloyd Kahn. You were featured in his book, his recent book on rolling homes, right?

Kai 30:53

Yes, that's correct. Yeah, I was I was, I was featured in his most recent book, Rolling Homes, which I was really honored to be included in that.

Ethan Waldman 30:53

That is a huge honor. I'm a big Lloyd Kahn fan myself. So did he come and like see the truck in person?

Kai 31:12

No, he didn't. Unfortunately, I think that. Oh, I think he's more recent books are more like, viewer sent in images and stuff like that. Yeah, I don't think I don't think Lloyd has actually done the principal photography in his books for a couple of years now. Okay. But I did have I did have the pleasure of meeting him once before when he did the book tour for his Builders of the Pacific Coast book. So I went, I traveled to a small island here where he was doing a book reading to an audience. And I went there and watched it and got to meet him and got him to sign my copy of the book back then, which was great. And I also got an opportunity to meet some of the builders that were featured in that book. So that was really fun.

Ethan Waldman 31:53

Yeah that sounds awesome. With the first time I had Lloyd on my podcast, like a month later, I got a box in the mail from his publishing company. And he sent me every single tiny house book that they published. I was like, This is amazing. Yeah, a whole Lloyd Kahn library.

Kai 32:11

There you go. You got the whole library all in one go.

Ethan Waldman 32:15

I do. Well, actually, I need to pick up the latest the Rolling Holmes one. I don't have that yet. But the last one was awesome, too. Which was all about like, his homestead and essentially like his lifestyle.

Kai 32:30

Yeah. I think that's cool. Because he's been telling other people's stories for about, I don't know, 60 years. So then finally, that's a book where he gets to tell his own story.

Ethan Waldman 32:40

Exactly. Well, you mentioned two books that inspired you, Builders of the Pacific Northwest. And also, Some turtles have nice shells? Are there any other books or resources that you kind of credit with helping you on your your tiny house journey that you'd like to share with our listeners?

Kai 33:03

Oh, gosh. Well, I think I'm proud to say that I have maybe one of the most extensive libraries on House trucks anywhere. So okay, I've got a really big collection of both vintage house truck books as well as modern ones. So there's obviously there's the rolling homes book that shelter publications put up. But there's also the first rolling homes book that was published by Jane lids, I think in 1979. Okay, so that one's out of print. There's some turtles have nice shells, which is also out of print. There's another book called Roll your Own, which is kind of supposed to be like an instructional DIY book, but it's it's mostly just filled with fun illustrations and kind of funny lingo from back in those days, I wouldn't say that it's a very, like practical for these days DIY book, but it's nice to have just as a part of history. Okay. And then there's another book that is about New Zealand house truckers. Actually, I think it's road people have Aotearoa is a more modern book, but that one that one actually talks about the house truckers and the Gypsy fare and all of these cultural things that happened in New Zealand from the 70s onwards. So that's one of the things I find the most interesting is that house trucks have been around on in multiple countries and on multiple continents since the 60s, but a lot of people seem to not really know about them.

Ethan Waldman 34:23

Yeah, it's they they seem like a kind of a niche. niche within a niche.

Kai 34:30

Yeah, a niche within a niche of very recognizable within the tiny house kind of umbrella. There's, you know, Van life and skoolies and tiny houses, and everybody else and then there's house trucks, which are just right, kind of off in this corner over here. That like nobody really knows about. Yeah.

Ethan Waldman 34:47

Well, it's a really interesting concept because again, like if you live in a cold climate, you know, I would be concerned about just taking that school bus or that van and trying to turn it into something that can be heated without dealing with moisture issues and the lake. So to basically get the the movability of the skoolie. Without, you know, if you're gonna have to essentially build an entire house on top of that anyway, you might as well just build the entire house from scratch rather than trying to use this metal tube.

Kai 35:21

Yeah, totally Exactly. It's like I love Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love skoolies I think to make them livable in most northern climates, you need to do a roof raise, which is a whole other thing entirely, you know, lots of cutting and welding and lots of metal fabrication, which is beyond a lot of people just in order to be able to get that set height so that you can then insulate it significantly. Yep. So house trucks are nice in that way, because you just you just build it up like you would kind of a tiny house on the back of the platform. But then you have a tiny house that you can move really, really easily and you're not towing a trailer and dealing with you know, jackknifing a trailer into weird little parking spots and stuff like that. Yep. Yeah.

Ethan Waldman 35:58

Have you ever gotten the truckling stuck?

Kai 36:00

Yes, I have. I, I can't remember what I was doing. But I was I think I was trying to maneuver it into a really weird parking spot in one of the previous places that I lived, and ended up spinning one of the rear tires. So it kind of dug itself in because it was just gravel. It was dirt and gravel, you know it was paved. And so I dug one of the rear tires and in the whole house just started to tilt over slowly. And I was like, oh, god, okay, I have to go get help. So I found a buddy who had a tow strap in his big F 250 or something like that. And between the two of us, we had to coordinate it so that he pulled and jerked the tow rope at the exact same time that I kicked it into reverse. And then we managed to bump it out of that hole and get it up and out. Oh, boy. Yeah, that was fun.

Ethan Waldman 36:45

Wow. Wow. Hopefully you don't repeat that one.

Kai 36:49

I definitely hope so. Yeah, it's not a it's it's it can drive around farmer's fields and stuff as long as it's dry out. But it's definitely not an off road vehicle. For sure.

Ethan Waldman 36:59

Yeah. It sounds like it's it's rear wheel drive.

Kai 37:02

Yes, exactly. So you get stuck quite easily. But but but yeah, but I do enjoy. I watch a lot of videos of people who build those overlanders I don't know if you've seen those. Great big. Oh, yes. A huge four by four six by six. Like MAN truck overlay. Yes. I do think those are pretty cool.

Ethan Waldman 37:24

Yes, they talk about mechanical nightmare, though, man. Yeah, no kidding. I think I I'm forgetting their names. But I interviewed a couple that their Overlander is like a decommissioned like military vehicle. And like literally nobody can work on them. Or like, it's not even easy to get parts for them. It's like very specialized. Yes, that seems impractical.

Kai 37:47

That's the thing with those cool or you need like some special German part that you need to import. And then you need to wait eight weeks for it to show up and all of this kind of stuff. So I guess that's the trade off of having something along those lines, or something like that, or unit mock or something like that. And one of the motivations for the truck that I bought specifically is that it's just an old International, it's one of the most common commercial trucks that run the roads in North America. So you can find parts for them, literally anywhere, you can find mechanics to work on them anywhere. It's really simple. It's not air brakes, it's hydraulic brakes. So, you know, I definitely it's funny. Whenever I post a video talking about the truck itself, I always get people in the comments saying like, I used to work on these back in blah, blah, blah or something. So just like every single diesel mechanic has worked on one of these trucks at some point in time, which is great, because that's what I wanted. I wanted it to be easy to fix if I was stuck out in the middle of nowhere, and I needed to get apart for it.

Ethan Waldman 38:43

SMART. SMART. Well, that's, that's that's a great little tidbit and tip for people who are maybe interested in house trucks to try to find something that's that's a little bit more common.

Kai 38:56

Yeah, exactly. Rather than some specialty. I don't know. Swedish, Swedish military vehicle or something likethat.

Ethan Waldman 39:04

You can make even make the house really unique, but you want the truck to be really, really common. Totally.

Kai 39:10

Yeah. 100% Did you ever consider

Ethan Waldman 39:14

like buying a school bus and then just demolishing the cab? Or yeah, like way too much work?

Kai 39:22

No, I totally thought about that. There's actually there's a couple people in those old books that I mentioned who did exactly that where they had, they had a school bus and then the you can see they took like a can opener to the whole back of it and just took the whole thing off. And then reframed it and then just reframed it from the bottom up at some people have definitely done that. I was not confident in my metalworking abilities at the time. Yeah, so I did not do that. It seems like a big deal. It would be really nice to do something like that because then you would have a full length like because you'd have the past through all the way to the front of the cab to have more interior space. So like that would be really nice. But then you also deal with the difficult He's trying to insulate that space where windshield is single pane glass, the passenger and the driver side doors are both single pane glass. And generally the cab of a truck is kind of chilly because of all the sheet metal and stuff. So then that would be a thermal leech that would go to the back of your house. So then that would be kind of like a whole other problem to deal with.

Ethan Waldman 40:18

Yeah, I can see I can see what you mean. Nice. Well, and actually, I meant to ask just, you know, because you are in BC and the mountains, you see snow and freezing temperatures at you know, how, how did you insulate your home? And are you are you happy with with how it's kind of performed?

Kai 40:35

Yeah, for sure. So I use rockwool insulation in the whole house, in the house portion. Nice. I did that. Because it's, it's pretty easy to work with. It's locally produced through like mines within the province and stuff. It's pretty affordable. Yep. I think that if I had had kind of a more concrete idea of where I definitely wanted to put absolutely everything like if I find everything down to the most minut detail, I would have used spray foam instead just because that works as a vapor barrier, and an insulator and it is, you know, even if you're the most meticulous person in the world, you'll never be able to insulate with batt insulation, as well as spray foam well, but there were a few things I wasn't quite sure of I wasn't 100% Certain where I wanted to put certain electrical outlets and stuff. So I didn't want to risk spray foaming the whole thing, and then having to go back and chisel out, you know, cooked spray foam in order to put an electrical outlet somewhere. So that's kind of that's kind of a trade off, you know? Yeah, totally. And then in in the, in the floor.

One thing I wish I had done is what's common in school buses is we've got the flat deck, which is all sheet metal, and then they'll put expanded foam sheeting on top of that. And then they'll just put their plywood directly on top of the sheeting so that you don't have any thermal bridging in between the top of the plywood and the metal floor. And that creates a really good insulative platform to build on. I didn't want to do that inside because I was worried about losing head height. So instead what I did is I went underneath the truck, and then got rigid foam board, cut it and then jammed it up in between the floor joists. And that didn't really that hasn't really worked very well. And I've also realized that the mice love going underneath the frame rails of the truck, and then finding a way to squeeze their way up on top of the foam board and then building a nest right there, like directly under my floorboards. So I've had a few instances where there's been a little mouse nest and he's running around like right underneath the floor and my cat is quite interested in what's going on. But the mouse is like underneath underneath the floorboards on the outside of the truck. Oh my gosh, I had to deal with all that. It's funny. I was watching, listening to one of your previous podcasts where you talk about mouse problems.

Ethan Waldman 42:43

And oh man, I had a major mouse issue at my house thing.

Yeah, yeah. It is a thing. They will come they will find the holes and make a nest.

Kai 42:55

They absolutely well. Your house is warm and cozy. That's what they want.

Ethan Waldman 43:00

Yeah, that's what they want. Alright, well, Kai, thank you so much for being a guest on the show today. I really enjoyed our conversation.

Kai 43:08

Okay, great. Thanks for having me.

Ethan Waldman 43:09

Yeah, you're welcome.

Thank you so much to Kai for being a guest on the show today. You can find the complete show notes including a transcript, photos of Kai's house truck, the ugly truckling and so much more over at thetinyhouse.net/288. Well, that's all for this week. Happy 2024 I'm your host Ethan Waldman, and I'll be back in two weeks with another episode of the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast.

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